Tag Archives: emergency preparedness

Disability rates in the path of Hurricane Florence

Understanding the needs of a community is imperative in order to effectively plan for natural disaster emergency response. As Hurricane Florence continues to impact the Southeast coast, national, state and local community emergency planners are working to evacuate and shelter thousands of people who are fleeing their homes.

People with disabilities are one of many vulnerable groups especially at risk during natural disasters. In times of emergency, people will evacuate with their households, and will need to shelter with their households. It is not acceptable to separate families and households in times of crisis. Many family members are caregivers, so shelters need to be accessible so that people with disabilities and their families and caregivers can stay together.

People with disabilities: About 41 million, or 13%, of Americans have at least one type of disability.  The vast majority (38 million) live in households with other people and a significant number of people with disabilities live in group quarters, which includes dormitories, nursing homes, and prisons.

People without disabilities: Approximately 78 million people without disabilities live in households with a member who experiences a disability. This means that nearly 25% of the US population lives in a household with a member with a disability.

(See Prevalence of Disability: Individual and Household Context for more about this research).

In the areas at most risk from Hurricane Florence, there are particularly high rates of disability at the county level. This map shows disability rates by county across the U.S.

Map of disability rates by county

Click on the map for a larger, downloadable and shareable version and a text description.

These next two maps show disability rates in the counties that are in the path of Hurricane Florence, as well as the number of people with disabilities in the path of Hurricane Florence.

This map shows the percent of people with disabilities by county in the path of Hurricane Florence. See below for a text description.

The map above shows the percent of people, by county, estimated by the ACS to have disabilities in the Southeastern region of the United States. Disability rates are broken into four levels: 4.7-12.8%, 12.9-15.5%, 15.6-18.9%, and 19%-36.9%. Darker purple indicates a higher rate. The map shows counties just inland from the coast in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia as having high rates of disability (19% -36.9%).

The map shows the number of people with disabilities in the path of Hurricane Florence. See below for a text description.

The map above shows the number of people, by county, estimated by the ACS to have disabilities living in the Southeastern region of the United States. Population is broken into four levels: 13 – 1,788 individuals, 1,789 – 4, 289 individuals, 4,290 – 10,134 individuals, and 10,135 – 984,716 individuals. Darker purple indicates a higher population. The map shows counties with large populations of people with disabilities (10,000 and more) throughout North and South Carolina, and the northern coast of Florida.

In order to ensure that needed accommodations are provided at shelters, emergency planners need to know the functional needs of the populations who may be coming to their shelters, not just that needs are present. The resources required for a person who is Deaf/hard of hearing are not mutually exclusive with the resources required for a person who uses a motorized wheelchair or for a person who is blind/low vision.

Our Disability in America map series breaks out this information. We have created maps that show rates of impairment type at the county level for the U.S. We use data from the American Community Survey (ACS), which does not directly measure disability. Instead, it uses questions related to difficulty and functional impairment to identify individuals who may experience a disability. The ACS asks six questions related to functional limitation:

  • Hearing difficulty: deaf or having serious difficulty hearing (all ages)
  • Vision difficulty: blind or having serious difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses (all ages)
  • Cognitive difficulty: because of a physical, mental, or emotional problem, having difficulty remembering, concentrating, or making decisions (ages 5+)
  • Ambulatory (i.e. mobility) difficulty: having serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs (ages 5+)
  • Self-care difficulty: having difficulty bathing or dressing (ages 5+)
  • Independent living difficulty: because of a physical, mental, or emotional problem, having difficulty doing errands alone such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping (ages 18+)

See Rural Matters: The Geography of Disability in Rural America for more information about the ACS and our work on disability demographics.

Cropped map of Disability in America: People with Hearing Difficulty (2015). Click on the labled link in the text for more information and a text description of this map. Our maps break out each of these functional limitations:

Maps of Disability Rates – Vision Difficulty

Maps of Disability Rates – Hearing Difficulty

Maps of Disability Rates – Cognitive Difficulty

Maps of Disability Rates – Mobility Difficulty

Maps of Disability Rates – Self-Care Difficulty

Maps of Disability Rates – Independent Living Difficulty

We also have created maps that show the disability rate in rural counties, among veterans, by gender, and the poverty rate among people with disabilities, each broken out by county across the U.S. All of these maps can be viewed and downloaded here: Geography and Rural Disability Maps

FEMA works with national disability groups to make sure that emergency plans and shelters are inclusive and accessible. FEMA’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination created a document titled Guidance on Planning for Integration of Functional Needs Support Services in General Population Shelters to help emergency and shelter planners meet access and functional needs in general population shelters.

For more FEMA resources and information, see:

For more information on people with disabilities and emergency disaster response, see:

Additional Maps


RTC:Rural is thankful for opportunities to share research at fall conferences

RTC:Rural is wrapping up the fall conference season, which began Oct. 20-23rd in Spokane, WA at the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living (APRIL) conference. Since then, RTC:Rural researchers have represented rural disability at five other conferences around the country. Below are some of our take-aways, and we also shared some photos on Facebook!

Montana Healthy Communities

Dr. Catherine Ipsen, Director of Employment Research; Dr. Meg Ann Traci, Montana Disability and Health Program (MTDH) Project Director; Dr. Rayna Sage, Research Associate; Lillie Greiman, Research Associate; and Andrew Myers, Research Associate, attended the Montana Healthy Communities conference, which was held November 1-2 in Helena, Montana. The conference brought together community development and health leaders from across the state to explore the future of community health improvement.

“A lot can be achieved working at the local level, particularly in rural communities,” said Lillie Greiman. “At the local level, rural communities understand the role of the environment in health, and engaging with others who live and work in rural helps us better understand both the similarities and uniqueness of rural communities across the country.”

American Public Health Association

researcher explaining poster to conference participant

Dr. Rayna Sage presenting her poster at APHA 2017

Dr. Meg Traci, MTDH Program Director, Helen Russette, MTDH Program Coordinator, and Dr. Rayna Sage, Research Associate, attended the American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting & Expo, which was held November 4-8 in Atlanta, Georgia.

A variety of RTC:Rural research was presented at the conference including:

Also at the conference, Dr. Tom Seekins, RTC:Rural Co-Director, was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award, which Dr. Traci accepted on his behalf.

Association of University Centers on Disabilities

Continue reading

Resources for inclusive emergency prep and response

two people push a person in a wheelchair through a flooded street

Photo by habeebee / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Current natural disasters, including the wildfires burning across the Western United States and the hurricanes impacting the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard, require us to look at the best practices and resources available to support all people, including those with disabilities, in preparing for and dealing with emergencies. In rural America, where it can be challenging to access resources on a good day due to geography, transportation, or scarcity, inclusive preparation and response is especially important.

Here are a couple resources that RTC:Rural and our partners recommend that can help people with disabilities plan for and recover from emergencies and other natural disasters.

Emergency Preparedness Toolkit

The Montana Disability and Health Program (MTDH) Emergency Preparedness Toolkit contains resources to help individuals with disabilities, their families, caretakers, and communities plan and prepare for emergency situations. The toolkit’s purpose is to increase awareness of inclusive emergency preparedness planning, and to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in emergency planning, from the individual to the community and state levels.

The Toolkit contains information on many topics, including:

  • How to register and record medical information so it can be clearly communicated with medical personnel during an emergency
  • How to assess emergency shelters for accessibility
  • First aid tips for pet owners
  • Emergency driving tactics and tips
  • How to promote involvement of people with disabilities in the planning stages of emergency preparedness

FTA Hurricane Harvey Information for Transit Agencies

In addition, Billy Altom, the Executive Director of the Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living, shared this information from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) about Hurricane Harvey and the FTA Emergency Relief Program, which contains useful information for transit agencies who receive FTA funds. Continue reading